Monday, October 26, 2009 3:30 PM

Do Completely Black Cats Exist Anymore?


Think about it. When have you ever seen an all-black cat? I mean a cat without a single white hair. Unless you frequent cat shows, I'll bet you've never seen one. The reason for this (being an aficionado of black cats, I noticed this a long time ago), is because of humans and their ridiculous belief in sorcery and the supernatural.

I've refreshed my memory with some details of this dark time in feline history by cracking open my copy of Desmond Morris' Catlore. According to Morris, some of ancient Egypt's sacred cats were "catnapped" by the Phoenicians, who are credited with developing the all-black type. These cats were shopped around the Mediterranean and Europe, where the black cat became very popular, possibly because their dark forms made them nearly invisible at night and therefore more successful ratters and mousers.

Alas, Medieval times really were the "dark ages" for cats. Somehow, black cats, once so well-loved, were now associated with the devil. Supposedly, only completely black cats were considered sorcerer's apprentices and disposed of, mainly by the Christians. Hence, unnatural selection favored those with some white in their coats.

By the 1600s, these beliefs were less firmly held. Black cats now started to become persecuted for the almost opposite reason: It was now believed that certain of their body parts were almost magical cures for what ailed a person. Morris quotes one Edward Topsel, who wrote that only the head of a black cat "which hath not a spot of another colour in it" would cure eye ailments. I won't detail the means by which the poor cat's head was prepared for this disgusting venture!

Nowadays, you're only apt to see completely black cats that are the product of human intervention. David Alderton, in his cat-breed book Cats, describes many fur colors. When speaking of "black", it is pointed out that there should be "no trace of white hairs". In the description of the black British Shorthair, it says that these cats should not be allowed to lie in the sun as it may bleach their coat a bit. Yeesh!

The only breed that is consistently all-black and only black is the Bombay. Actually, it was bred to resemble a smaller version of the black leopard of India, hence the name. This breed is quite new, created in 1958 by Nikki Horner who bred a Burmese and an American Shorthair. The British have their own version, substituting the British Shorthair for its American cousin. According to Alderton, these cats are very friendly and tolerate kids and dogs quite well. Oh, and of course, they are beautiful! But then, what cat isn't?

Stay tuned this week for more on witchcraft, sorcery and black cats!
Chat later!

1 comments:

October 26, 2009 at 7:21 PM

I will have to check my two black cats for
a bit of white. My older black cat has a
gray undercoat also.... interesting post!

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Amanda
Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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